(sort of) Capon Torte (Chicken Pie)

Veal, Kid, or young Capon Torte
Take whichever of the meats listed above that you wish, boiling them first, and making sure that the meat is lean and fatty; and once you have removed every nerve, finely chop with a knife; then crush slightly in a mortar; and take some fresh cheese, and little bit of good aged cheese; likewise a little parsley and marjoram, finely chopping the one and the other, and ten or fifteen eggs with a pork belly or veal udder that has been well boiled and very finely chopped, adding a bit of pepper, some ginger, some cinnamon, some saffron, and cook the same way you would a white torte.

White Torte
… Then make the dough or rather crust in a pan, suitably thin, and cook very slowly, applying heat from below and above; and be sure that it is browned on top by the heat; and when it seems to be done, remove from the pan … Maestro Martino of Como, The

This was a recipe I made up while developing a recipe for Maestro Martino’s Capon Torte. I was hampered by the use of “torte” (in modern terms a sweet, layered cake) for a recipe that was clearly a tart or pie. I also thought the Maestro specifying 15 eggs was a bit ridiculous. In this version I made the Maestro’s recipe into a chicken pie; after doing some further research I came to the conclusion it was a tart rather than a pie (that is no pastry lid), and furthermore the 15 eggs are not ridiculous; but this recipe was so tasty I’ve kept it anyway.

If you’re interested, the final recipe for the Capon Torte can be found here.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 100g pork belly or speck 1/2 tsp pepper
350g skinned chicken meat 3 large eggs 1/2 tsp ginger
100g ricotta cheese 2 tbs chopped parsley 1/4 tsp cinnamon
25g grated parmesan cheese 2 tsp chopped marjoram 1/4 tsp saffron

Method

  1. Put the chicken into a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the chicken has turned white and is fairly firm to the touch – it should still have some give.
  2. Allow the chicken to cool slightly and chop into fine pieces.
  3. If the skin is still on the pork belly, remove it, and finely slice the pork belly, including the fat.
  4. Put the pork belly pieces into a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the pork meat has changed colour and the fat has started to dissolve. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Put all the filling ingredients in a bowl, and mix. It’s easiest to do this with your hands – just get them in there and smoosh.
  6. Divide the pastry into two pieces, one larger than the other (you want the larger piece to be approximately 2/3 of the pastry). Roll out the larger piece of pastry to approx. 3mm thickness and line a greased 20cm pie plate with it.
  7. Dock the bottom of the pastry and pour in the filling.
  8. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to form the lid. Brush the edges of the pie with beaten egg or milk, and then lay the lid on top. Press the edges firmly to seal, then cut a cross into the lid of the pie to allow steam to escape. If desired, brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg or milk.
  9. Put into a preheated 200°C oven and bake for around 345 minutes, or until the pastry has gone golden and started to pull away from the pie plate.
  10. Serve the pie hot or cold.

Notes

  • Even in the medieval period, Parmesan cheese was a coveted luxury. It was probably first exported from Italy in C14, and was prized throughout Europe. The relative dryness and higher salt content of a good parmesan cheese makes it easy to transport long distances without spoiling (Kindstedt, 2012, 155-157). If you are uncertain about using Parmesan in this recipe, you could substitute a milder cheese, such as Gouda or Edam.
  • There are no recipes for pastry in Maestro Martino’s book. The recipe I used is adapted from an English recipe that’s roughly contemporary to Maestro Martino (click on the link for more information).
  • Part cooking the meat ensures the filling will be cooked when the pastry is done. It may seem weird to not just chop the chicken and the pork together; however chicken is easier to cut when it’s wholly or partially cooked rather than raw, and pork belly, because of the fat, is much easier to cut raw.

Maestro Martino's Capon Torte

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.
Kindstedt, Paul (2012). Cheese and Culture.
Martino, Maestro of Como (2005). The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book, trans. Jeremy Parzen.
Scappi, Bartolomeo (2008). The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), trans. Terence Scully.

Capon Torte (Chicken Pie)

Veal, Kid, or young Capon Torte
Take whichever of the meats listed above that you wish, boiling them first, and making sure that the meat is lean and fatty; and once you have removed every nerve, finely chop with a knife; then crush slightly in a mortar; and take some fresh cheese, and little bit of good aged cheese; likewise a little parsley and marjoram, finely chopping the one and the other, and ten or fifteen eggs with a pork belly or veal udder that has been well boiled and very finely chopped, adding a bit of pepper, some ginger, some cinnamon, some saffron, and cook the same way you would a white torte.

White Torte
… Then make the dough or rather crust in a pan, suitably thin, and cook very slowly, applying heat from below and above; and be sure that it is browned on top by the heat; and when it seems to be done, remove from the pan … Maestro Martino of Como, The

It took a number of attempts to get a working recipe for this dish. At first I was hampered by a misunderstanding of what Maestro Martino meant by “torte.” In a modern setting, a torte is a layered, sweet cake, whereas most of the Maestro’s recipes for tortes are savoury and involve pastry. The first attempt I made was an actual pie, with a pastry lid, and used far fewer eggs (I thought 10-15 eggs was a bit excessive). This recipe resulted in a delicious Chicken Pie.

Maestro Martino's Capon Torte

However, further research led me to discover a torte as described by Maestro Martino is “a layered pie akin to the modern quiche.” (Parzen, 2005, 49). Furthermore there are recipes for pies where the method clearly specifies covering the contents, whether the crust would be thrown away (for example Deer or Roebuck Pie, p52), or eaten (Quince Pie, p89).

More experimentation was needed. For my second attempt I made the recipe up as a quiche, with the ingredients mixed into the egg. This was where I discovered Maestro Martino wasn’t kidding about the eggs – depending on the size you actually need that many to make the filling appropriately moist. However, making the torte this way was problematic. The filling was not well distributed in the torte case, and the egg was overcooked at the outside.

Capon torte v2

I went back to the idea of a torte being in layers – what if the meat, cheese and herbs were in a base layer, with the egg poured over the top? I tried this and was definitely on to something. However again, the egg was overcooked at the outside edge, but not cooked at all in the middle.

Capon torte v3

I went back to the recipe and noted Maestro Martino’s instructions to heat slowly from above and below. My oven has a grill function – would the grill give me a properly cooked egg top? Result! It worked! Further experimentation showed if the recipe was made into individual pies rather than a large pie, the grill wasn’t needed to cook the egg through.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 100g pork belly or speck 1/2 tsp pepper
350g skinned chicken meat 10 large eggs 1/2 tsp ginger
100g ricotta cheese 2 tbs chopped parsley 1/4 tsp cinnamon
25g grated parmesan cheese 2 tsp chopped marjoram 1/4 tsp saffron

Method

  1. Put the chicken into a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the chicken has turned white and is fairly firm to the touch – it should still have some give.
  2. Allow the chicken to cool slightly and chop into fine pieces.
  3. If the skin is still on the pork belly, remove it, and finely slice the pork belly, including the fat.
  4. Put the pork belly pieces into a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the pork meat has changed colour and the fat has started to dissolve. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Put all the filling ingredients in a bowl, and mix. It’s easiest to do this with your hands – just get them in there and smoosh.
  6. Beat the eggs until the whites and yolks have been incorporated
  7. This recipe will make 2 20cm pies or 12 individual muffin sized pies. Roll out your pastry to around 3mm thickness. Grease your moulds, then line with the pastry.
  8. Dock the bottom of the pastry with a fork.
  9. Spoon the meat and cheese mixture into the pastry and gently press until smooth. It should fill around three quarters of the pastry.
  10. Put your tortes on the oven shelf, but don’t yet start cooking. Pour the beaten egg into a jug with a fairly narrow spout, and then carefully pour the egg into the tortes, over the meat mixture. You may need to do this in stages, depending on the size of your jug.
  11. Carefully push your tortes into the oven and cook at 180°C until the edges of the tortes have started to come away from the moulds, around 25-30 minutes for larger tortes, or 15-20 minutes for individual tortes.
  12. To check whether the torte filling is cooked through, insert a skewer into the middle of the filling. If it comes out clean, your tortes are cooked. If not, move the tortes under a grill on a low heat, and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. If you can’t control the heat on the grill, place the tortes as far away from the grill as possible so they don’t heat too quickly and burn.
  13. You may find the egg topping on the tortes has risen when you get them out of the oven. This is fine – air gets trapped in the egg white strandsand expands. The topping will lower as the tortes cool.

    Capon tortes as they are cooking

  14. Serve hot or cold.

Notes

  • Even in the medieval period, Parmesan cheese was a coveted luxury. It was probably first exported from Italy in C14, and was prized throughout Europe. The relative dryness and higher salt content of a good parmesan cheese makes it easy to transport long distances without spoiling (Kindstedt, 2012, 155-157). If you are uncertain about using Parmesan in this recipe, you could substitute a milder cheese, such as Gouda or Edam.
  • There are no recipes for pastry in Maestro Martino’s book. The recipe I used is adapted from an English recipe that’s roughly contemporary to Maestro Martino (click on the link for more information).
  • Part cooking the meat ensures the filling will be cooked when the pastry is done. It may seem weird to not just chop the chicken and the pork together; however chicken is easier to cut when it’s wholly or partially cooked rather than raw, and pork belly, because of the fat, is much easier to cut raw.
  • Using a jug to fill pie or tart cases with a particularly liquid mix (such as beaten egg) was a method used in period. It is much easier to put the mix into the pastry when the case is already on the oven shelf, than to fill the pastry case then carry it to the oven.

Capon Torte
Capon Torte

Mini capon torte
Individual Tortes

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.
Kindstedt, Paul (2012). Cheese and Culture.
Martino, Maestro of Como (2005). The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book, trans. Jeremy Parzen.
Scappi, Bartolomeo (2008). The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), trans. Terence Scully.

Bratwurst

25 Weltt jr gútt prattwirst machen
So nempt 4 pfúnd schweinis vnnd 4 pfúnd rinderis, das last klainhacken, nempt darnach 2 pfúnd speck darúnder vnnd hackts anainander vnnd vngeferlich 3 seidlen wasser giest daran, thiet aúch saltz, pfeffer daran, wie jrs geren est, oder wan jr geren kreúter darin megt haben/ múgt jr nemen ain wenig ain salua vnnd ain wenig maseron, so habt jr gút brattwirst.
Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin

25 If you would make good bratwurst
Take four pounds of pork and four pounds of beef and chop it finely. After that mix with it two pounds of bacon and chop it together and pour approximately one quart of water on it. Also add salt and pepper thereto, however you like to eat it, or if you would like to have some good herbs , you could take some sage and some marjoram, then you have good bratwurst.

The text of the original recipe can be found here.

The translation is by Valoise Armstrong, and can be found here.

Bratwurst translates as “best meat.” They had become an important gourmet food by the sixteenth century

These bratwurst were made using an electric mincer with attached sausage stuffing tubes. In period, the meat was probably minced with a cleaver, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. The sausages could have been stuffed by spooning the mixture into the casing; however, you can also use a cowhorn with the tip removed. This creates a stiff tube onto which the sausage casing can be pushed, and makes the stuffing easier to stuff into the casing. This idea came from An Early Meal (pp 96-97).


Demonstration of cow horn to stuff sausages. The ideal length is 2/3 the length of your index finger.

The recipe below has been quartered.

Ingredients

450g pork (see notes) 500mL water 2 tbs marjoram
450g beef (see notes) 20g salt 1 tbs sage
225g streaky bacon 1.5 tsp pepper Sausage casing (see notes)

Method

  1. Using either an electric mincer, hand mincer or cleaver, mince the meat very finely. If using a mincer, you may find passing the meat through the mincer twice will get the desired texture.
  2. Finely mince the herbs, then add the herbs, water, salt and pepper to the minced meat. Then mash it all together. You can really only do this step with your hands, unless you have commercial sausage making equipment (and hands are more fun). You can’t overmix here – in fact the aim is to make the meat texture as fine as possible. You will find the water helps greatly with this; it will be absorbed into the meat and keep it moist while the bratwurst are cooking.
  3. Keep mix-mashing the meat until you can lift a large chunk of mixture from the bowl, and it takes a while to fall from your open hand.

    Sausage mix fully mixed.

  4. Stuff the meat into the sausage skin. It can help to have a bowl underneath to put the sausage into. If using an electric machine, it can help to have two people involved – one to feed the meat into the hopper of the mincer, and one to pull the sausage away. Both people should try to work to a smooth rhythm.

    Sausages1

  5. When you have used all your meat, cut away any unused sausage skin, leaving around 5cm at the end. Measure off the length of your desired sausage, then twist the long sausage at this point around 3 times to form the individual sausages. Measure off the desired length again, and repeat the twist. Hold the sausage below the point where you are twisting to stop the previous sausages from untwisting (it may take you a few goes to get the action right).
  6. To cook the sausages, bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the sausages. Cook until they have completely changed colour. If you have access to a smoker, you can also smoke your sausages.
  7. To serve, slice the sausages thinly, and serve with condiments such as mustard and ricotta cheese. Blackberry jam is also a weird but tasty serving option.

Notes

  • For a good sausage mix, you need around 20% fat. Much of this will come from the bacon. For the pork, I like to use shoulder, which has a good covering of fat and reasonably lean meat. For the beef, I like to use rump for the same reason. You might also be able to get extra fat from a butcher from their trimmings.
  • You can use synthetic casings or natural; the pictures in this recipe all use natural casings, which are the cleaned intestines of (usually) pigs. They can be obtained quite easily (and cheaply) from butchers.

Smoked bratwurst
Smoked Bratwurst

Boiled bratwurst
Simmered Bratwurst

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Bach, Volker (2016). The Kitchen, Food and Cooking in Reformation Germany.

Serra, Daniel and Tunberg, Hanna. An Early Meal. Chronocopia Publishing (2013).

Black Barida (Chicken in Raisin Sauce)

Pound black raisins very well. Stir and mash it with a small amount of vinegar. Strain the liquid and add a small amount of cassia, galangal as needed, and a little ginger. Pour over it some olive oil and add a small amount of chopped rue. Pour sauce over [roasted] pullets.
Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, Kitab al’Tabikh Chapter XXXI (The Book of Dishes, trans. Nawal Nasrallah)

Baridas are cold dishes served at the start of the feast, after fresh fruit was served (Zouali, 2007, 56). They are generally composed of light foods – fish, chicken or vegetables, though there is an occasional recipe for red meat (Zouali, 2007, 63). It was believed the stomach took a while to “warm up,” and putting heavy food into an unwarmed stomach would cause indigestion (Zouali, 2007, 64).

Ingredients

1 roasted chicken, or 1.5kg roasted chicken pieces
375g raisins 2 tsp powdered ginger
80mL wine vinegar 3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp cassia or cinnamon 2 tbs finely chopped feverfew
½ tsp powdered galangal 1 tsp salt (optional)

Method

  1. To make the sauce, grind the raisins and vinegar to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, or pulverise in a food processor.
  2. If the sauce is too dry, add more vinegar.
  3. Pass the mix through a sieve, add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  4. Combine the sauce and the chicken and serve cold.

Notes

  • I have followed Nasrallah’s lead in using roast chicken with this dish (Nasrallah, 2009, 167) – most chicken barida recipes in the same book specify roast chicken. However, it also works well with sliced poached chicken breast.
  • When using roast chicken in feasts, I like to use chicken wings chopped in half and roasted. They don’t take long to cook, and are very easy to portion (and they’re cheap!).
  • Cassia and cinnamon are spices obtained from the bark of related trees, and are often both identified simply as cinnamon. When powdered, cassia has a stronger smell, and is reddish in colour. You will probably need to go to a specialised spice store to find them differentiated (Hemphill, 2006, 156-163).
  • If using ginger, try to track down whole dried ginger which has to be grated before use. This is the way ginger would have been purchased in the medieval period, and it has a far more powerful flavour and scent.
  • I have replaced the rue with feverfew.  It has a regrettable tendency to cause allergic reactions (and miscarriages), plus is very bitter.  If you can’t find feverfew, you could also use rocket (arugula), in greater quantities. Both feverfew and rocket are also bitter, without the severe allergen problems.
  • I recommend using powdered galangal rather than fresh – fresh galangal can be tough, so it’s difficult to peel and cut.

Black Barida

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order books directly from the Book Depository.
Hemphill, Ian (2006) Spice Notes and Recipes
Nasrallah, Nawal (2009) Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens
Zaouali, Lilia (2007). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

Nuhud al-Adra – Virgin’s Breasts (Revisited)

Knead sugar, almonds, samid and clarified butter, equal parts, and make them like breasts, and arrange them on a brass tray. Put it in the bread oven until done, and take it out. It comes out excellently.
Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada Chapter XI (The Description of Familiar Foods, trans. Charles Perry)
Features in Medieival Arab Cookery, ed. Maxime Rodinson.

If I had to nominate a signature dish, this would probably be it. I have cooked this dish multiple times, and handed out the recipe many times as well (you can find the original recipe, along with the story of its development, here). It’s an easy recipe, the biscuits are delicious, and there is room for as much innuendo as you please.

However, the texture was slightly grainy. I put this down to the sugar, because it’s difficult to cream clarified butter and sugar together, and the sugar doesn’t completely dissolve. I have recently been revisiting Middle Eastern cooking with one of my apprentices, and I noticed there are recipes in various sources calling for powdered sugar (which in Australia is known as icing sugar). Knowing powdered sugar dissolves very quickly in any liquid (such as clarified butter), I wondered whether replacing the caster sugar with icing sugar would give a better result. It does. The resulting biscuits have a much smoother texture, and are easier to shape as the mix is moister.

Ingredients

200g clarified butter 200g semolina
200g icing sugar 200g almond meal

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix the semolina and almond meal in a bowl.
  3. If your clarified butter is not melted, melt it, and then combine with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy. You can do this step with an electric mixer.
  4. Gradually add the combined semolina and almond meal to the butter and sugar – it is better to do this by hand.
  5. Take walnut sized balls of dough and press in to “breast” shapes. You can also mould small nipples and press them gently into the top of the “breasts.”
  6. Bake for around 12-15 minutes, until pale gold.

Notes

  • Clarified butter, or ghee, is butter with the milk solids removed. To make it, heat butter over a gentle heat until it is completely melted and bubbling. You will see a white scum on the surface. These are the milk solids. Strain the melted butter through a strainer lined with a double layer of muslin and you will be left with lovely clear clarified butter. Because the solids are the bit that makes butter go rancid, clarified butter does not need to be stored in the fridge. Some lactose intolerant people are fine with clarified butter, as most of the lactose is removed with the solids. You will need about 250g of butter to get 200g of clarified butter, or you can buy ghee from Indian or Middle Eastern grocers.
  • There is some debate about what samid is; it’s definitely some sort of wheat product, but it’s not normal wheat flour. Charles Perry believes it’s fine semolina (Perry, 2005, 22), which is made from durum wheat, also used to make pasta. It’s coarser than ordinary wheat flour. However, Nawal Nasrallah believes it’s finer than ordinary flour, in which case it would be similar to wheaten cornflour(Nasrallah, 2009, 573).
    Based on my own experimentation, I get better results from semolina, as wheaten cornflour loses too much structure in cooking, and you wind up with mush rather than dough. However , make sure you get fine semolina rather than coarse, as coarse semolina feels like sand in the mouth.
  • The original recipe specifies a “bread oven” temperature, which normally would mean a very hot oven. However, I have found that cooking the breasts at a temperature above 180°C leads to them burning quickly, while the middle is uncooked. And no one likes burned breasts.

Virgin's Breasts mk II

Further Reading

Click on the links below to order books directly from the Book Depository.
Nasrallah, Nawal (2009). Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book
Rodinson, Maxime (2006). Medieval Arab Cookery

Krautsuppe (Soup of Greens)

Setz Kraut zu mit einer Krautsuppen es sey geschnitten oder gehackt nimm gantzen Pfeffer und gantze Muschatenblüt darunter laß darmit sieden und wenn du es wilt anrichten so nimm darzu gebeht Schnitten von einem weck oder Ruckenbrot schmältzs mit heisser Butter und besträw es mit Ingwer. Marx Rumpoldt, Ein new Kuchbuch CXLIIr (1581)

Set potherbs to boil with a potherb soup, whether they are cut or chopped, and add whole pepper and mace to it, let it boil with that and when you want to serve it, take toasted slices of white bread or rye bread, enrich it with hot butter and strew ginger on it.

The text and translation of the recipe can be found in Volker Bach’s excellent collection of medieval period recipes that can be cooked in a camp setting, Plain Fare, which is available for download here.

“Pot herbs,” or leafy green vegetables, were staples of the medieval diet for all classes of people. However, green leaf soups for noble households invariably included costly spices, which made them very different to the soups that would have been served in a peasant household.

Ingredients

½ small head cabbage 1.5 L vegetable stock 1 tsp ginger
½ bunch chard ½ tsp pepper 25g butter
Bunch parsley ½ tsp mace Optional: Toasted bread

Method

  1. Finely shred the cabbage, chard and parsley.
  2. Bring the vegetable stock to the boil, then add the vegetables, pepper, mace and salt. Cook until the leaves are soft. This will only take around a minute.
  3. Mix through the butter, and sprinkle with the ginger, just before serving.
  4. If desired, serve with toasted white or rye bread.

Notes

  • Do not cook the vegetables for long – otherwise they will go bitter and be unpleasant to eat.
  • The leafy vegetables I have used are suggestions only. You could use any other herbs such as chervil or coriander, or spinach in place of the cabbage or chard. You could even use kale, though I honestly don’t know why you’d bother.
  • You can find a C14 English recipe for a potherb soup here.

Potherb soup

Bowres (Duck Braised in Beer and Sage)

xv. Bowres.
Take Pypis, Hertys, Nerys, Myltys, an Rybbys of the Swyne; or ellys take Mawlard, or Gees, an chop hem smal, and thanne parboyle hem in fayre water; an þan take it vp, and pyke it clene in-to a fayre potte, an caste þer-to ale y-now, & sawge an salt, and þan boyle it ry?th wel; and þanne serue it forthe for a goode potage.
 MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyaundez, xxxi.

Take lungs, hearts, ears, spleen and ribs of the pig; or else take mallard or goose, and chop them small, and then parboil them in fair water; and then take it up, and pick it clean into a fair pot, an caste thereto ale enough, and sage and salt, and than boil it right well; and then serve it forth for a good pottage.

When I first saw this recipe, I was struck by the simplicity. However, I decided I would not be using the innards of the pig; aside from the extreme difficulty of obtaining some of the bits, I was worried I’d be stuffed head first into the pot if I tried to serve it to anyone (I discovered this would probably be true when I mentioned the possibility of lung in a dish). I decided to use duck, as goose is expensive.

However, in writing up the recipe, I was suddenly struck with a thought – was the cook meant to use the innards of duck or goose, not the flesh? I decided to look for other recipes in other manuscripts. Fortunately, a quick search revealed Daniel Myers’ excellent site Medieval Cookery had already gathered all fifteenth century recipes similar to Bowres. These recipes used a variety of meats, with varying herbs and spices; the common thread was the braising in ale.

The version of Bowres in MS Harleian 279 is very plain, and uses everyday ingredients; if using the suggested pig innards, this would likely be the sort of dish cooked by a peasant or lower class urban family.

Ingredients

1.5 kg duck pieces bunch sage leaves
600mL beer or ale 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Joint the duck, and put in a pot.
  2. Cover the duck with water, and bring the pot to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook the duck until the skin and meat are opaque and much of the fat has been rendered from the duck.
  3. Allow the duck to cool slightly, and then pick the meat from the bones.
  4. Transfer the duck to a clean pot, and add the beer or ale, salt and shredded sage leaves.
  5. Simmer the duck until the liquid is considerably reduced, and the meat is falling apart.
  6. Serve the duck either in its cooking liquid, or strained.

Notes

  • If you are lucky enough to find true ale (that is, brewed without hops), it will give you a more authentic result.
  • You may find this recipe works better with duck legs and thighs. Though the breast has a thick covering of fat, the meat itself is quite lean, and not well suited to long, slow cooking (it turns rubbery and is unpleasant to eat).
  • Parboiling the duck before braising it renders the fat from the duck. Modern braises would suggest frying the duck first to achieve the same purpose; you may find this easier.

Bowres

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Austin, Thomas (ed.). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks

Jurjaniyya (Sour Lamb Stew)

Jurjaniyya: The way to make it is to cut up meat medium and leave it in the pot, and put water to cover on it with a little salt. Cut onions into dainty pieces, and when the pot boils, put the onions on it, and dry coriander, pepper, ginger and cinnamon, all pounded fine. If you want, add peeled carrots from which the woody interior has been removed, chopped medium. Then stir it until the ingredients are done. When it is done, take seeds of pomegranates and black raisins in equal proportion and pound them fine, macerate well in water and strain through a fine sieve. Then throw them into a pot. Let there be a little bit of vinegar with it. Beat peeled sweet almonds to liquid consistency with water, then throw them into the pot. When it boils and is nearly done, sweeten it with a little sugar, enough to make it pleasant. Throw a handful of jujubes on top of the pot and sprinkle a little rosewater on it. Then cover it until it grows quiet on a fire, and take it up. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter I (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

 

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

1.5kg lamb 2 tsp coriander seed 30g pomegranate seed 2 tsp sugar
3 onions 1½ tsp cinnamon 30g raisins 15mL rosewater
4 carrots 1½ tsp ginger 200mL almond milk 25g jujubes
1½ tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 45mL wine vinegar

Method

  1. If you are using dried jujubes, put them in a bowl with just enough water to cover them, and leave aside to rehydrate.
  2. Cut the lamb into roughly equal sized pieces, removing any sinew (the silvery membrane you find on the edges of the meat).
  3. Put the lamb into a pot with just enough water to cover it, and the salt. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the onions and dice finely.
  5. Peel the carrots and slice into julienne strips, leaving out the core of the carrot.
  6. Finely grind the spices in a mortar or electric grinder.
  7. When the pot with the lamb is boiling, add the onion, carrot and spices. Stir well and reduce to a simmer.
  8. Meanwhile, put the pomegranate seeds and raisins in a mortar with enough water to cover them, and pound well.  This can also be done with a blender.  When the mixture has reached a smooth consistency, strain it through a fine cloth to remove any pieces of pomegranate seed.
  9. When the meat has started to soften and the liquid has reduced a little, add the raisin and pomegranate mix, vinegar and almond milk to the pot and continue to simmer.
  10. When the liquid has reduced and the meat is falling apart,  remove from the heat and add the sugar and the rose water, and mix well.  Transfer to a serving platter
  11. Drain the jujubes if necessary, and pour on top of the meat.  Serve warm.

Notes

  • The name of this dish derives from Gorgan, a city on the Caspian Sea (Perry, 2005, 31).
  • Jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) are also known as red dates or Chinese dates (the Chinese names are da zao or hong zao – many thanks to Facebook user Andi Houston for the Chinese names), and you may be able to find them dried in Asian grocers. The can also be found in Middle Eastern grocers. They have quite a tart taste, which in this case complements the rich flavour of the lamb and the slight sweetness of the cooking liquid. If you can’t find true jujubes/red dates (and they aren’t the easiest thing to find) do not substitute regular dates, as they are too sweet. I would suggest sliced, red-skinned plums to imitate the taste and colour.
  • Stewed dishes such as this often specify “fat meat,” which becomes extremely tasty and succulent when cooked for a long time and slowly, such as in this dish. Look for cuts such as forequarter or neck to get the best results.

Mutton stew

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.

Bāqillā bi-Khall (Broadbeans in Vinegar)

Bāqillā bi-Khall: Take green broad beans as soon as they are rough. Remove their external husks, then boil them in salt and water until they are done, and dry them off. Sprinkle a little caraway and finely pounded cinnamon on them. Pour a bit of sesame oil on them. Put good vinegar to cover on them, and use them. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter VII (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

Anyone who has ever used broadbeans can work out quickly why they were largely replaced with New World varieties. Within the pods, each bean is enclosed by a hard, pale skin which should be removed before they are eaten, and this becomes incredibly tedious to do in quantity. However, anyone who has tasted broadbeans can work out why they never fell completely out of use – they are extremely delicious!

This dish would have been classed as a bārida, a cold dish with a vinegar based sauce, served at the start of a meal as an appetiser (Zaouali, 2007, 63).

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

500g broad beans ½ tsp caraway
30mL virgin sesame oil ½ tsp ground cinnamon
45 mL vinegar

 

 

Method

  1. Remove the broadbeans from the pods. Boil them in salted water for about a minute, then leave to cool.
  2. When the broadbeans are cool, remove pale, hard skin from the bright green inner bean.
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the beans.
  4. Pour the sesame oil over the beans, then pour over the vinegar.
  5. Serve the beans at room temperature.

Notes

  • Broad beans is another name for fava beans. If you can’t get them fresh (as this recipe clearly calls for) you may be able to find them frozen. You can also get them dried or canned.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).

Broad bean salad

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.
Zaouali, Lilia (2007). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World.

Hais (Date and Nut Treats)

Hais: Take excellent dried bread or biscuit (ka’k) and pound it well. Let there be a pound (ratl) or it and three quarters of a pound (ratl) of fresh or preserved dates – let their seeds have been removed – and three ounces (uqiya) of pounded almond and pistachio meats. Macerate everything well and strongly by hand. Then refine two ounces (uqiya) of sesame oil (by frying spices in them) and pour it on it. Knead it continuously until it is mixed. Make it into balls and dust them in finely pounded sugar. If you want, replace the sesame oil with clarified butter. This is good for travelers. Kitab al Tabikh Chapter X (The Book of Dishes, trans. Charles Perry and published as A Baghdad Cookery Book).

In Middle Eastern cultures, sweet dishes are not served at the end of the meal – instead fresh fruit is eaten. Dishes such as these tend to be reserved for celebrations or social occasions, and are an important part of guest hospitality. However sweet dishes are not exclusively served only at special times – they can be eaten whenever desired (Salloum et all, 2013, 1).

Hais developed from a Bedouin dish (Salloum et all, 2013, 211), as suggested by the direction that it is good for travelers. No doubt the Bedouin version was much simpler than the Baghdad version.

Equivalents of weights and measures
Ratl 400g
Uqiya 33g
(Perry, 2005, 22).

Ingredients

For explanations of the ingredients, see the Notes below.

400g bread crumbs 65mL virgin sesame oil
300g pitted dates ½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g almonds ½ tsp ground ginger
50g pistachios 20g caster sugar

Method

  1. Put the pistachios in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Allow to dry.
  2. In a mortar and pestle or food processor, roughly grind the nuts. They don’t have to be finely or consistently ground.
  3. Add the dates and bread crumbs to the mortar and pestle or food processor, and process until the mix has come together. If using the mortar and pestle, use the pestle until the dates are mashed, then use your hands.
  4. Put the sesame oil and spices in a frypan, and fry over a medium heat until you can smell the spices.
  5. Pour the spiced oil over the date, bread crumb and nut mix, and continue to process until the mixture binds well.
  6. Roll the mix into balls, then roll these balls into the caster sugar until they are well coated.
  7. The Hais will keep very well in an airtight container in a cool place. However they are unlikely to remain uneaten for long.

Notes

  • It is far better to make your own breadcrumbs rather than use bought ones – the texture of freshly made crumbs is superior. You can either use a fine grater or a food processor to produce breadcrumbs.
  • If you are used to Asian cooking you’ll assume sesame oil should only be used sparingly, as the type of sesame oil used in Asian cooking can be overpowering if used heavily. However, this type of sesame oil is produced from toasted sesame seeds, which heavily concentrates the sesame flavour and aroma. If you are familiar with modern Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, you might have come across virgin or cold-pressed sesame oil, which is much paler and more subtly flavoured. This is the sort you need to use for baking.If are going to be cooking for anyone with a sesame allergy, almond oil, rice bran oil or canola oil make good substitutes (the last two don’t have any flavour).
  • Refining oil means to gently fry spices in it. As with medieval European recipes, specific spices are often not specified. The spices I have chosen are popular additions to Middle Eastern sweets.
  • Clarified butter is also known as ghee – butter with the milk solids removed. You can buy it in supermarkets or Indian or Middle Eastern grocers, or make your own. Heat butter over a gentle heat until it is completely melted and bubbling. You will see a white scum on the surface. These are the milk solids. Strain the melted butter through a strainer lined with a double layer of muslin and you will be left with lovely clear clarified butter. Because the solids are the bit that makes butter go rancid, clarified butter does not need to be stored in the fridge. Some lactose intolerant people are fine with clarified butter, as most of the lactose is
    removed with the solids. This is also great for people with sesame allergies.

Hais

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Perry, Charles (2005). A Baghdad Cookery Book.
Salloum, Habeeb; Salloum, Muna and Salloum Elias, Leila (2013). Sweet Delights from a Thousand and One Nights.